An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna
Department of Education and Skills
Whole School Evaluation
St Kevinís Girlsí National School
Kilnamanagh, Dublin 24
Uimhir rolla: 19466E
Date of inspection: 9 November 2009
A whole-school evaluation of St. Kevinís Girlsí National School (GNS) was undertaken in November 2009. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Mathematics and Geography. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the evaluation, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix to this report.
St. Kevinís Girlsí National School was founded in 1975. This Catholic school is under the patronage of the Archbishop of Dublin and serves the parish of Kilnamanagh in Tallaght. It provides education to girls in single sex classes from junior infants to sixth class. Newcomer pupils comprise just over ten percent of the school population. The school shares its campus with St. Kevinís Boysí National School. Enrolment has been steady for the past few years and is projected to increase slightly over the next three years. The attendance level of the pupils is good.
The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:
Pupils enrolled in the school
Mainstream classes in the school
Teachers on the school staff
Mainstream class teachers
Teachers working in support roles
Special needs assistants
The Catholic ethos of the school is very evident throughout the school. It is manifest in the regular school assemblies, the daily recitation of prayers and the creation of sacred spaces in classrooms and communal areas of the school. The school has a dedicated prayer room. It is frequently used for prayer services and as a place for quiet prayer by pupils and staff members. The school chaplain and local priests are regular visitors to the school; they support liturgical events and religious celebrations. The schoolís stated mission is to strive for high academic standards and the development of the pupilsí self esteem and social skills. The schoolís commitment to its stated mission is reflected in the delivery of a broad and balanced curriculum throughout the school and the provision of a range of extra-curricular activities for the pupils.
The board ofmanagement is properly constituted and functions in an effective manner. Meetings are convened once a month and minutes are maintained. The schoolís finances are audited annually. The board is attentive in ensuring that Departmental regulations regarding all aspects of school life are observed. Its members have attended training for boards of management provided by the Catholic Primary School Management Association (CPMSA). Clear roles are assigned. The board is to be commended for upgrading and maintaining the school building to a high standard. It ensures that the school is properly maintained, cleaned and heated. The board had been proactive in acquiring a wide range of resources to support teaching and learning.
The board takes an active role in the devising, ratification and review of whole-school organisational policies. Curriculum plans are devised by the staff and brought to the board for discussion and ratification. The next step for the board of management is to develop a strategic plan for the future development of the school. This plan should include specific school priorities and outline roles of responsibility, actions and timeframes.
Relationships and communications between the board, staff, parents and the wider community are very good. The chairperson meets with the principal once per week and maintains regular communication with the teaching staff. The board promotes and affirms the work of the staff by attending activities and celebrations within the school.
The principal competently leads and manages the school. She demonstrates proficient organisational and administration skills. These skills enable her to manage the school in a highly efficient and successful manner. She is committed to upholding the ethos of the school and to the holistic education of the pupils. The principal has strong interpersonal skills. She facilitates very good communication among the staff, parents and the community. She has advanced the process of whole-school planning significantly in recent years. The principal capably uses her extensive knowledge of the Primary School Curriculum (1999) to lead curriculum development within the school.
The in-school management team comprises an administrative principal, a deputy principal and three special duties posts. Individually and collectively, the members of the in-school management team contribute significantly to the efficient management and leadership of the school. Their duties incorporate curriculum, organisational and pastoral roles. They are willing to take on additional responsibilities as they arise. Some of the duties attaching to the posts have been in place for a number of years. It is recommended that the posts be formally reviewed under the terms of Circular 07/03 regarding appointments to posts of responsibility. This is to ensure that all duties meet the current and developing needs of the school. High levels of communication are evident within the team and between staff members. Meetings of the in-school management team are held once per month.
The staff is effectively managed. The teachers are provided with opportunities to develop their skills across a range of teaching contexts. The support for newly-qualified teachers is expertly led by the deputy principal. There is a praiseworthy focus on participation in a range of professional development courses across a diversity of domains by many teachers. Members of staff who engage in courses disseminate their new information/skills to other members of staff. The school building, grounds and garden are maintained to a high standard. The caretaker and secretary provide excellent auxiliary support to the school. In all classrooms and educational settings the quality, range and use of resources to support teaching and learning is commendable. These include mathematical materials, large-format books, library books and table top activities. The school has three interactive white boards which were funded by the parentsí association; these are well utilised in lessons. In addition, the school has a computer room which is timetabled for use by all classes. An external tutor is partly funded by the board of management. She teaches information and communication technology (ICT) skills to classes from second to sixth. A wide range of resources to support the implementation of the geography curriculum has been acquired by the school.
The management of relationships and communication with the school community is very good. Staff meetings, memoranda and high levels of staff collaboration facilitate good internal school communication. There are two parentsí groups which actively support the work of the school. The Friends of St. Kevinsí Schools are a group of parents whose primary purpose is to fundraise for the school. The money raised through their various endeavours helps significantly with the day-to-day running costs of the school. The parentsí association is affiliated to the National Parentsí Council (Primary). The first meeting of the newly-appointed representatives to the association has recently taken place. They have agreed a calendar of events to support school celebrations and events. The parents proudly support the pupils in sporting events and musical productions. Opportunities for parents to meet with teachers and discuss the progress of pupils are facilitated on an ongoing basis, both formally and informally. Parent-teacher meetings are held annually. Parents also receive a written report on the pupilsí progress once a year. The school provides regular newsletters and letters to parents and ensure they are well informed of school activities. A meeting is held with parents in the summer term prior to their child commencing school. The most pertinent school procedures and policies are mediated to parents at these meetings. The parentsí association is interested in becoming more aware of curriculum content and programmes of learning being delivered at all class levels. The dissemination of information to parents regarding key aspects of the curriculum programmes to be taught to their children from year to year is advised.
The management of pupils is excellent. In line with the schoolís code of behaviour and mission statement the school is succeeding in providing a positive learning environment that promotes self esteem and age-appropriate social skills. The principal and teachers display very effective classroom management skills and are highly affirming of the pupilsí efforts and achievements. Furthermore, the staff ensures that opportunities for curriculum enrichment are realised in every classroom through, for example, ICT, the Green Schools Programme, musical productions and participation in sporting events and competitions.
The quality of whole-school planning is of a high standard. Policies take due account of legislative and curriculum requirements. They reflect the schoolís context. All teachers have a copy of the plan. A collaborative approach to planning is in place involving the use of members of the in-school management team, in-school planning days, planning meetings and staff meetings. Parents have been involved in the formulation of some policies, most recently the schoolís code of behaviour. Policies and plans are very accessible to parents. The assessment policy outlines very clearly the procedures for administering and recording standardised tests within the school. It should be further developed in order to provide guidance to mainstream class teachers on ongoing assessment strategies and records management.
The quality of curriculum plans for English and Mathematics is excellent. The English plan provides specific guidance to inform teachersí long-term planning and offers practical direction regarding the teaching of all aspects of English at all class levels. The mathematics plan is clearly laid out and guides provision in key areas such as language, number operations and mental mathematics. The geography plan is very good; there is a clear delineation of the content to be taught within most strand units at each class level. It documents key whole-school decisions regarding the selection of countries for in-depth study from third class to sixth class. Good quality geography trails have been devised for junior classes. These are an excellent resource for developing the pupilsí graphical skills. These trails should be used as a template for devising geography trails for all class levels.
The quality of classroom planning is very good. Long-term and short-term planning is undertaken by all teachers. They are consistent with whole-school plans and outline clear learning objectives, resources and methodologies. An agreed format for short-term planning has been implemented by the staff. Appropriate monthly progress reports are maintained by all teachers. There is some planning for differentiation and assessment. All teachers should plan for differentiation and assessment in order to meet the needs of individuals and groups of pupils.
Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Skills Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Skills, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.
The quality of teaching and learning in oral language and reading is very good. Oral language is thoroughly taught at all class levels. The teachers present well-structured lessons which are skilfully supported by a variety of resources and methodologies. The pupils speak confidently and assuredly about a range of topics. They can successfully recite a wide selection of poems and rhymes from infants to sixth class. Reading is skilfully taught throughout the school and the pupils are making very good progress in this area. The teachers cultivate a love of reading among the pupils from their first days in school and they nurture that interest as the pupils progress through the school. Large-format books, class readers, supplementary readers, and library books are very well utilised to support the development of reading skills. The teachers incorporate whole class teaching, pair work and group work into their lessons. Excellent work is undertaken on the study of class novels and factual books. A consistent phonics programmes is implemented throughout the school. The pupils reach good standards in reading. Most pupils can read fluently within their class level; they demonstrate very good word-attack skills and comprehension ability.
Approaches to the teaching of writing in the school vary. The standard of the pupilsí writing in terms of presentation, spelling and handwriting is good. The pupils are enabled to write in a variety of genres in a number of classes. Some good samples of diary entries, character profiles and letter writing were observed. In other classes the pupils write less frequently and in fewer genres. A comprehensive programme for writing is outlined in the whole-school plan for English. Review of the implementation of the whole-school plan for writing is recommended in order to ensure that pupils experience the process of writing in a variety of genres. The celebration of the pupilsí written work and use of displays to support their writing skills is also recommended.
The quality of teaching in Mathematics is good. The teachers employ a good range of active learning methodologies. In particular, competent use is made of the environment and pair work. A wide range of resources is utilised to support teaching. Clear learning objectives are outlined for each lesson and, in general, teaching is well-structured. All lessons include good attention to mental mathematics and significant emphasis is placed on the language of Mathematics at all class levels. Concepts are explained clearly by the teachers and number operations are confidently taught. The teaching of tables in all class settings is noteworthy. Some teachers have established effective displays and mathematics-rich environments; this should be a feature of practice in all classrooms.
Pupils display varying levels of competence in Mathematics. The pupils enjoy Mathematics and participate eagerly in activities. Infant and junior pupils competently engage in a range of early-mathematical activities and can confidently record number stories. Most pupils have a good knowledge of tables and display competence in completing number operations. Pupils can use mathematical language appropriately. A number of pupils in the middle and senior classes experience difficulty in problem solving. In all classes there are pupils who require differentiated support to raise overall achievement levels in Mathematics. It is recommended that the grouping of pupils for mathematics teaching be considered, with the use of in-class support where possible. In addition, the incremental development of the pupilsí problem-solving skills should be an intrinsic element of the mathematics programme.
The standard of teaching and learning in Geography is very good throughout the school. The pupilsí geographical skills and knowledge are successfully developed through the delivery of well-structured lessons. Teachers use a wide range of methodologies and resources proficiently in lessons. Fieldtrips in the locality and to other places of geographical interest are regularly undertaken. The use of surveys is very well integrated with the data strand of Mathematics. The teaching of graphical skills is very competent. All classrooms display globes and good quality maps of Ireland, Europe and the world. These are effectively utilised to develop the pupilsí mapping skills.
High levels of pupil activity were evident in geography lessons. The language of Geography is confidently used and appropriately applied at all class levels. The pupils have produced very good quality projects on European and international countries in the middle and senior classes. They have developed a confident sense of place and space for contrasting places in Ireland. The pupils demonstrate competent knowledge of local, national and European geography in most classes. They have very good attitudes towards the environment and demonstrate competent knowledge of the Environmental Awareness and Care strand. This has been capably developed through their successful participation in the Green Schools Programme.†
Formal assessment practices involve the annual administration of standardised tests in English and Mathematics to pupils from first class to sixth class, and the use of the Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) with senior infant pupils. Informal assessments incorporating written tasks and teacher-designed tests are routinely given and corrected. Work in copybooks is monitored carefully. Very good practices have been established in the special education needs settings and this should be shared among all staff members. This practice involves the frequent administration of formative assessments and the systematic recording of the pupilsí progress in English and Mathematics. In order to meet the needs of all pupils and to facilitate planning for differentiation it is recommended that all teachers use a broader selection of formative assessment approaches. The consistent recording of the progression in individual pupilsí learning should also be considered.
Very good support is given to pupils with special educational needs (SEN). The SEN team comprises two full time learning-support/resource teachers. Three special needs assistants (SNAs) are employed; they carry out their duties conscientiously. Support is primarily provided on a withdrawal basis with some provision for in-class support. Consideration should now be given to exploring further models of in-class support. The work of the SEN teachers is guided by specific, goal focussed, realistic and individualised plans. These plans are based on data from psychological reports and teacher observations. They are drawn up in consultation with the class teacher, support teacher(s) and parents. The standard of teaching observed in support settings is of a very high standard. Support rooms are print-rich and the SEN teachers ensure that the pupilsí efforts and achievements are celebrated through attractive displays. Excellent resources appropriate to the needs, abilities and learning styles of the pupils are effectively utilised. Lessons are well-structured and teachers adopt a variety of active-learning methodologies to maximise pupil learning.
Pupils from disadvantaged, minority and other groups are effectively supported, in keeping with the schoolís ethos of inclusion. The board and staff ensure that every pupil is enabled to engage in all curricular activities. They have a thorough knowledge of the pupilsí backgrounds and support funding for books and other resources where necessary. An intercultural policy is currently being developed by the staff. A shared teacher provides support for pupils for whom English is an additional language (EAL). EAL teaching is characterised by well-structured lessons, varied teaching methodologies, group work and the judicious use of resources. All programmes are drawn from the themes of the Integrate Ireland Language Programme (IILT) and the pupilsí competence is assessed through the Primary Assessment Kit. Support is provided on a withdrawal basis. It is recommended that models of in-class support be provided through close liaison with class teachers.
The school has strengths in the following areas:
∑ The principal competently leads and manages the school.
∑ The management of pupils is excellent.
∑ The quality of teaching and learning in oral language and reading is very good.
∑ The standard of teaching and learning in Geography is very good throughout the school.
∑ Very good support is given to pupils with special education needs.
∑ The quality, range and use of resources to support teaching and learning is to be commended.
∑ The quality of planning overall is of a high standard.
∑ The board of management functions in an effective manner.
∑ Relationships and communications between the board, staff, parents and the wider school community are very good.
∑ The school building, grounds and garden are maintained to a high standard.
The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:
∑ It is recommended that the responsibilities attaching to the special duties posts be formally reviewed under the terms of Circular 07/03.
∑ The teachers should explore the grouping of pupils as a method of differentiation in Mathematics.
∑ A review of the whole-school plan for writing is recommended to ensure that the pupils experience the process of writing in a variety of genres.
∑ A broader selection of formative assessment approaches should be utilised in all classes and the pupilsí progress should be systematically recorded by all the teachers.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and the board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published June 2010†
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1:† Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of Management of St. Kevinís G.N.S. commends the inspectorate for the highly comprehensive and professional manner in which the WSE was conducted. We welcome the affirmation of work being done at St. Kevinís G.N.S. and are heartened by the comments on the quality of teaching and learning observed during visits to the school. In particular we acknowledge the reportís positive assessment of the curricular, organisational and pastoral strengths of the entire staff. The BOM particularly welcome the reportís affirmation of the schoolís various activities and their positive effect upon the broader locality.
Area 2:†† Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the†† inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
The recommendations of the report are being addressed in a manner that will enhance the strategic development of the school in the years ahead. We have successfully implemented in-class support in one of our classrooms and will extend the use of in-class support in the school.